If I play the piano for extended periods(2 hours+) I get terrible back pain.

What is the correct distance/height for the digital piano/chair and what should my posture look like?

  • Do you sit on an actual piano seat? One that you can raise and lower. You may have a length that makes your seat inadequate. – Neil Meyer Aug 24 '15 at 18:16
  • @Fofole - Where is your pain? – aparente001 Aug 24 '15 at 18:28
  • Have you seen a physical therapist? If not, I would strongly encourage you to do so, to get specific stretching and strengthening exercises. Do you take a short break every 30 minutes or so, or sooner if you feel pain sooner? – aparente001 Aug 24 '15 at 18:28
  • @NeilMeyer i play on a roland rd 700nx suspended on two chairs and elevated by books .. so yeah .. normal chair. But I'd be willing to invest in a stand/proper chair since I'd play a lot more if not for this problem. – Fofole Aug 24 '15 at 19:55

Without knowing all of the dimensions - your height, leg length, arm length, upper to lower body proportion, height of existing chairs, size of books, etc. etc., it's almost impossible to answer sensibly. However, what you use is patently obviously not good!

Everyone will sit in a slightly different posture to play. Ideally, the keyboard starting height needs to be about the height of a standard piano keyboard. That then puts you in a start position, and is about the only 'standard' dimension. Arms are more important than legs: elbows slightly higher than wrists. I disagree with @mramosch that only fingers play. Arms and even shoulders come into the equation to add weight, when needed. Where your legs end up will be wherever, as the height of the stool/chair will dictate that. It may cause slight problems with pedaling, but that's to get used to. Distance between keys and pedals is fixed on proper pianos. You may well be slouching as you play. That's not good for pain whatever you are doing. Vertical back is good.

The pain is God's way of saying you're not doing it right, so it's good that you address this issue. As ever, a teacher would solve the problem toute suite,, but if it continues, play for less time, and/or consult a doctor. It may be that there is another problem that has been revealed in your piano playing.

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  • When you give some advice to a student you will definitely not start by saying - you can do it anyway you like, even if it's wrong and unhealthy. Later you will find out what's the best for you and adjust to your liking. You would rather start by teaching a good starting point (like - play with your fingers and don't let your body put pressure onto your hands) and let the student choose later on whatever movement of the body it needs to play expressively. These are two concepts - allow everything that is not explicitly forbidden vs. disallow everything that is not explicitly allowed. – mramosch Aug 25 '15 at 14:47
  • Or would you tell a student - go for Glen Gould's posture when you want to play Bach perfectly, because Glenn's interpretation sound so nice. I know I am exaggerating but I hope you get the picture. I don't know anything about the person who wrote the OP and admitted - my advice from above sounds very much for beginners, but sometimes even advanced players have to go back to square one and re-invent things in order to break barriers they can't step over and clear the hurdles... – mramosch Aug 25 '15 at 14:48
  • But I definitely like your post. You make a good point - Lot of pieces of good advice. Vote up... :-) Just sometimes life shouldn't be to complicated - like letting a fellow poster speculate about having bought the right piano stand (in case of a digital one) etc. etc. etc. - This makes one feel unconfy and won't remedy his initial dilemma. The only thing you can change - in a given setting of a heavy piano that HAS its height and shape - is your chair and its distance to the instrument. All the rest is about posture and relaxation... - But you already pointed that out accurately... Thanks – mramosch Aug 25 '15 at 14:58
  • @mramosch - thanks for the kind thoughts, but I'm still of the opinion that 'only use fingers' is a little out of kilter. It's sort of obvious to a beginner that one uses one's fingers - what else - apart from thumbs! But sometimes even early pieces to learn will benefit from using hands from the wrist instead. In fact, recently, I had to persevere with that technique with a pupil who said she could only use her fingers. Trouble is, that didn't work well for the piece. – Tim Aug 26 '15 at 15:43

Let your arms and hands hang down to the left and right of your torso. Note the posture of your relaxed fingers. Now lift your arms and put your fingers in exactly that posture on the keyboard. That is the perfect position of your fingers.

As for your arms: the part from your fingers upwards should be horizontal up to your elbows. Never let your body put any pressure onto your arms and fingers. Only your fingers play. Just stretch your elbows a little bit outwards away from your torso so they don't touch each other.

The horizontal posture of your arms dictate the height of your chair. The distance from the piano is dictated by the position of your elbows beside your torso.

Almost like you would sit when you were meditating. When you feel that your body, arms and legs are totally relaxed - and of course your neck and head - start playing.

If anything feels odd - start all over by letting your hands hang down to the ground ;-)

Most of the times it is the posture of your fingers and some blocking of your wrists that make you perform corrections of your torso. You start a whole chain of bad behavior of your body.

Start with your fingers (they are the lead actors of your act) - flat horizontal wrist and underarms - distance of your elbows from your torso - distance from the keyboard.

The actually playing of Chopin is a piece of cake.

Have fun!!!

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  • Where did Chopin get into the act? – Tim Aug 24 '15 at 19:38
  • Sorry, but I couldn't resist in cheering him up a little bit... - The actually playing of Chopin is a piece of cake ;-)))))))))) – mramosch Aug 25 '15 at 15:20

I as well disagree with the notion of limiting playing to only the fingers.Its almost analogous to attempting to use your pinky without the ring finger moving. I am not a doctor, however,if one moves the fingers, the muscles, tendons, etc,in the forearm move as well. So many other factors are involved with the keyboard other than purely the fingers. One must compensate always when playing.

I recall my teacher having the skeleton of the entire arm hanging on the wall by the piano. I think there is also a basic problem that is involved, that is, the notion of playing 'perfectly'. The obsession with getting every note correct, I am assuming thats the premise of fingers only, is dangerous and can lead to real problems. At least from my experience.

Attempting to perform limiting yourself to fingers, may lead to a 'note perfect' result. Perhaps some professionals
use this method, and succeed, however technically perfect does not make good music. Definitely concentrate on your posture, head to toes. Its ok to make 'mistakes'. Horowitz and Rubenstein made them, so can you. Main thing, if it hurts, its wrong.

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  • Unless you dive into the depths of piano literature, for a (almost) beginner it always starts out with letting your fingers play. Put your relaxed hands/fingers on the keyboard and just play a 5-note range up and down. C-D-E-F-G-F-E-D-C etc. What else do you move - except your fingers (and your eyes)? If the distance from your instrument is correct, your lower arms are more or less horizontal and your upper arms do not touch your torso because your elbows are slightly moved away from your hips - you will hurt no tendon no muscle or your wrist by just playing with your fingers. – mramosch Aug 25 '15 at 15:13
  • That's where one should start off. Until you don't start exploring the other ranges of your given sound spectrum there is no need in moving your body too much. That's what this exercise was aiming at. Every a little more experienced player can draw his conclusion out of this basic advice when extending his capabilities. But anyhow - Thanks very much for your input... – mramosch Aug 25 '15 at 16:03

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